Though my Raymond Chan Wine Reviews business is run separately from my partner Sue Davies’ Wine2Trade distribution work, we operate under the same company. The conflict of interest is therefore real when I make an assessment of any of the wines in the Wine2Trade portfolio (click here to see the wineries Sue looks after), thus I always have a disclaimer in recognition of this situation where my objectivity may be questioned. I trust that readers still see my reviews of these wines as credible, and in the same vein, I trust that the wineries concerned believe that I am trying to be fair. There is thus the pressure to assess the wines more stringently, so I must take extra care to get it right!
In the spirit of objectivity, the wines in the Wine2Trade portfolio are not eligible for my ‘Winery of the Year’ award (click here to see this year’s winner), so in way of compensation, I have instituted a separate annual summary in ‘Favourites from the Wine2Trade Portfolio’. (Click here to see my favourites for 2011.) And the focus is a little different. Here, it’s not about the highest score by quality and style assessment criteria, but based on what really took my personal fancy as an interesting wine to drink. I’m fortunate in being able to look at many of Sue’s Wine2Trade wines on a regular and continuing basis, and to see how they change and develop is a bonus for a wine reviewer (or judge) who may only see a wine a couple of times a year. It’s the consistency of how they show over many occasions that tells one what the wine is really like. Here are my ‘Favourites of 2012 from the Wine2Trade Portfolio’. They are listed by the producer’s geographical location from north to south.
Spade Oak and Heart of Gold – Gisborne
Better known for his role in big companies such as Montana which morphed into Pernod-Ricard, and now at the heart if the Indevin and Lion-Nathan tie-up in Gisborne, Steve Voysey has made a fantastic contribution to New Zealand wines with gems such as the ‘P’ ‘Patutahi’ Gewurztraminer and ‘O’ ‘Ormond’ Chardonnay, not to mention his crucial role in developing ‘Lindauer’ to where it is today. But Spade Oak, his small, own-vineyard venture with his wife Eileen, is set to take a big step forward next year as they strengthen their range with the introduction of a great value ‘Voysey Series’ tier. However it’s the top-end wines which show what’s capable of being made and the Spade Oak Gisborne Methode Traditionnelle ‘Blanc de Noirs’ 2009 demonstrates Steve’s experience with the technically difficult sparkling style. Rich, fulsome, with complex yellow stonefruit Pinot Noir, yeast and toasty notes, the balance of weight with freshness is its best feature for me. www.spadeoak.co.nz
Instinct – Hawke’s Bay
It has been difficult for Sue to maintain the profile of the Instinct wines as she has been able to do in the previous years. Some cooler and smaller vintages have meant that the fruit for this brand has needed to be diverted to the Pask Winery labels. Kate Radburnd is acutely aware of Sue’s predicament, but such is the way of Mother Nature. Those with the benefit of experience know that supply and demand fluctuates and goes in cycles. There was only a very limited amount of Instinct Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2011 released, but it’s well-worth the effort to seek out, and snaffle-up if one comes across it. It isn’t going to meet the needs of those who want a super ripe and fully-constituted Syrah of heroic Hermitage dimensions, but for those who want something akin to a Pinot Noir, it’s just perfect. It features suppleness and freshness, and probably too much white pepper, but it just drinks so well, and noticeably so. You can’t have a super-star trophy winner all the time, as there’s plenty of good drinking with wines of modest aspirations and prices. This is one of those. www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz
Vynfields – Martinborough
John Bell and Kaye McAulay are very aware of what their certified organic and biodynamically-run vineyard on the Martinborough Terrace is capable of. While they push the limits a little with style differentiation in making two rosés, three Rieslings and two Pinot Noirs, as well as a little of the unknown red variety they bottle as ‘Mad Rooster’, it’s their Estate Pinot Noir which they hang their hats on. The Vynfields Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011 is the latest in a long line of wines that shows their fruit is as good as anyone’s in the district. Cropped at 40 hl/ha, it’s pretty much at the same level as grand cru Burgundy, which the appellation regulations specify at 35 hl/ha. (Their ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir is even lower at 16 hl/ha!) The low yield means that the wine is packed full of dark cherry and berry fruits that show with the classic Martinborough savoury complexities. The 2011 vintage is already beginning to demonstrate what it has got, but it will drink well for another 5-7 years. www.vynfields.com
Charles Wiffen – Marlborough
The Charles Wiffen range is a wide and diverse one, often with a dozen wines on offer at any one time. Right across the board, the standard is extremely high, but the accessible styles and good pricing mean they are very approachable for the consumer. The large family vineyard of the affable Charles and Sandi Wiffen in the Lower Wairau and Southern Valleys region is tended meticulously by Melissa Sutherland with Bec Wiffen responsible for the initial crush, then James Rowan and Anthony Ivicevich at West Brook in West Auckland making the wines. The Charles Wiffen Marlborough Chardonnay 2011 is a wine that sits in right between that of the powerful and concentrated, oak-spiced 2009, and the more gentle, fruit-oriented 2010, both good in their own right. But this 2011 has the best of both worlds. It’s elegant, with marked intensity and depth, and lovely oaking, but still showing fruit, with excellent focus. www.charleswiffenwines.co.nz
Starborough – Marlborough
This is one of those boutique labels that flies under the radar in the scheme of things, but is a gem when it is discovered. The problem is that it is being found by an increasing number of wine lovers! The Jones family own the historical Starborough Station in Seddon, at the gateway to the Awatere, where they have two vineyards, along with their original ‘O’Dwyers Farm’ vineyard in the Rapaura district. They blend fruit to make a complete style, and can vary the proportions used according to season. The Starborough ‘Family Estate’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is as representative of Marlborough as you could get, being equal proportions of Wairau and Awatere. Passionfruit and mineral flavours that softly fill the nose and palate, but carrying a racy acidity that is enlivening and youthful in nature. I loved it on release and cautiously gave it high silver, bordering on gold. With a little time in bottle it quickly went on to capture two gold medals on the show circuit. My next look at it, it was a strong 5-star wine indeed. It’s a star wine for sure. www.starborough.co.nz
Terrace Edge – Waipara Valley
It has been a boon for wine drinkers that the Chapman family decided to release wine under their own label, rather than only supplying their fruit to other wineries. Peter Chapman is the most fastidious grower, and it would be a shame not to recognise the qualities of their vineyard on Georges Road in the Waipara Valley. Since 2011, their wines have been made by Dom Maxwell of Muddy Water, one of the wineries that covet their fruit. Dom is one of the stars in the region, and he preserves the fruit and sensitively transforms it into super wine. In 2011, the Chapmans decided to add two sweeter Rieslings to their already successful ‘Classic’. I just adore the Terrace Edge ‘Liquid Geography Waipara Riesling 2011. Though 30 g/L rs, it’s not fully sweet, but it has real decadence, as it is enriched by a little botrytised material. But beautiful acidity and minerality keep it all clean, pristine and cuttingly refreshing. The geology of the vineyard is faithfully represented in the bottle. www.terraceedge.co.nz
Mount Edward – Central Otago
For a man who spends a considerable amount of his energy and time in promoting the bigger picture with events such as Pinot Noir 2013 and ‘Summer of Riesling’ it may seem incredible that Duncan Forsyth still has reserves to make top-flight wine! The latest Pinot Noir releases – the 2009s and 2010s at Mount Edward are among the best-ever he has produced. From the individual single-vineyard bottlings right down to the value ‘Earth’s End’ label they are extremely smart if not glorious. But matching them step-for-step are his aromatic whites. 2012 will be seen as a special vintage for these wines, and the Mount Edward Central Otago Riesling 2012 is a wonderful one. This is a wine of sheer delicacy, beauty and balance. There’s a touch of the exotic in the nuances, and refined acidity and mouthfeel. It’s seamless and flows with beauty. The vintage was a small one and the wines will be in short supply, especially with the frost-affected 2013s not being able to compensate. So make sure you’ll get some of this to drink. www.mountedward.co.nz